It has been an exciting year for our Cathedral Youth Choir. We appointed our new Youth Choir Director, Ellie Martin, a year ago, which has enabled a stronger focus on our young singers and their involvement with the Cathedral and the local community.
As well as regularly leading the music in the 6pm Mass, the Youth Choir has been involved in many other events over the course of the year. They were invited to sing as part of the Salaam Shalom (SaSh) Kitchen Mitzvah in November 2017 in aid of a National Jewish initiative which aims to bring different communities of different faiths to do good things for the world. They also led the music alongside our Cathedral Choir in the Maggie’s Carol Concert and the BBC Radio Nottingham Carol Service. They also sang beautifully in their regular slot singing at the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass.
A highlight for the Youth Choir was taking part in the community opera Tobias and the Angel by Jonathan Dove and David Lan - the climax of the Cathedral’s first Music Festival, playing the important roles of the sparrows and the fish. This was an excellent opportunity for the Youth Choir, as it allowed them to work together with other young people in youth choirs from local music charity Music for Everyone, as well as professional soloists, the Cathedral Choir, and Streetwise Opera.
We were delighted to premiere a new piece, Gracious Spirit, on Pentecost Sunday, written by Composer-in-Residence Amy Summers, which was specially composed to feature the young singers.
The academic year ended with the Youth Choir’s own Summer Concert in the Cathedral Hall to celebrate all their learning throughout the year. They performed a mixture of sacred and secular pieces to an appreciative audience. This was also an opportunity for members to perform vocal or instrumental solos, and many of the members took up this opportunity - for one of our members, it was the first time she had ever performed on her clarinet in public. This was a very special occasion, and it is hoped that these concerts will happen more often, as they are important in developing confidence in performance skills, as well as being a good opportunity for the young people to support and encourage each other.
There have been great strides made over the past ten months in developing our Youth Choir thanks to the support of many in our Congregation. A testament to this was the Youth Choir’s involvement in singing at the Ordination of Deacons on Saturday 14 July, where Bishop Patrick McKinney publicly acknowledged how much they’ve progressed - “giving our adult choir a run for their money!” Well done Youth Choir!
“The group has definitely helped with not being so reliant on sheet music and having someone leading us. I think we've learnt to listen to each other better, so we're more together as a group. It's also been helpful to sing different parts and work out harmonies.” - Ainé
Vivace have performed in the 6pm Mass, and recently performed in their first 11.15am Mass, where they sang two pieces a cappella. The group also performs close harmony secular music, in order to provide them with a variety of styles. They performed a challenging arrangement of Make You Feel My Love in the Youth Choir’s Summer Concert.
“I love girls’ group as it's brought us girls closer in friendship. I've benefitted massively from the group, as we learn how to sing as an ensemble, and have all challenged ourselves at trying different parts. I'm looking forward to singing different genres of songs. My favourite part of the year was when we performed the Make You Feel My Love, as we worked hard and achieved a great performance.” - Róisín
The atmosphere in rehearsals is a supportive one, where the girls encourage and help each other. The girls in the group also act as mentors to the younger members in the main Youth Choir, helping them to develop good rehearsal technique, and assisting them when they need help. Two of the members of Vivace have been singing with the adult Cathedral Choir for the 11.15am Mass for about a year. Through the formation of this group, the other members were encouraged to do the same, and now all the girls sing with the Cathedral Choir. Several of them also regularly cantor for Masses throughout the year.
“I like this group as it gives me the opportunity to improve my voice and my harmony skills. It also pushes me to learn music by ear, rather than reading it which is an important skill. I’ve made many new friends from joining this group and I’ve really benefited from being in it - becoming a better singer and musician.” - Hester
Responding to the needs of the dedicated young boys in the Youth Choir, a new group for boys with changing voices will be starting in September and we’re looking forward to seeing these young singers develop as their adult voices emerge over the next few years.
Through our new Nottingham Cathedral Music Charitable Trust, we were able to receive funding from Arts Council England’s highly competitive Grants for the Arts programme to support a collaboration with Streetwise Opera (a charity working with those who have experienced or are at risk of homelessness) and local charity Music for Everyone to perform the community opera Tobias and the Angel by Jonathan Dove and David Lan.
The funding helped cover the sizable costs of such an undertaking, including a two month period of rehearsals before coming together to perform the piece on Saturday 9 June 2018 at the Cathedral. The creative team included Director Robin Reece-Crawford and Musical Director Alex Patterson who previously collaborated on a community performance of Benjamin Britten’s opera Noye’s Fludde in Nottingham’s Albert Hall in 2013.
Over 100 musicians were involved, including: Nottingham Cathedral Choir, Cathedral Youth Choir, Music for Everyone Youth Choirs (Junior & Senior Voices and Nottingham Youth Voices), Streetwise Opera ‘Explore’ group, eight professional opera singers (including our very own Youth Choir Director, Ellie Martin, as Edna and former Choral Scholar, Emily Hodkinson, as Sara) and a nine-piece orchestra.
This project has represented a deepening of our relationship with Streetwise Opera with whom we have been working with to provide volunteering opportunities and we are looking forward to building our relationship with Music for Everyone as we embark on a year-long Festival of Youth in 2019.
The impact of the whole project, particularly the final performance, has been heart-warming and encouraging:
“I thought it was brilliant, every group did their part, not just us, every group. It was absolutely great to be part of something like that.” Streetwise Opera Participant
“We really enjoyed the opera on Saturday. It is a real experience for the young people to work both with professional musicians and the members of the Streetwise Opera, and to sing, to a high standard, music to which they would almost certainly not have access elsewhere. The girls have really enjoyed the experience and seem to respond positively to the high expectations that are set both musically and in terms of being responsible for themselves and the younger children in the choir. Involvement with the Streetwise singers in particular has opened the girls’ eyes to the way in which music, and music-making can, and should, be accessible to all.” Youth Choir Parent
“It was fantastic to be part of this project and to see that music at the Cathedral is really flourishing. I can't imagine how much hard work it has taken to put together the opera, let alone the whole festival, so what the team have done with the first one is amazing.” Opera Soloist
“The whole Music Festival brought about a real sense of community, bringing together a whole range of people from both the Cathedral and the City. Most notable with Choral Scholars and Cathedral Choir volunteers working alongside the Women of St Barnabas and members of Streetwise Opera to coordinate all front of house and refreshment duties across the four days. Tobias and the Angel was a completely unique experience in that it was truly collaborative and inclusive without sacrificing very high artistic quality. The pre-performance talk was accessible and fun, drawing in an engaging crowd, and bringing together all the threads of the event – faith, community and basic human things – giving a big reason as to why we do what we do.” Choir Member
Highlights from William Ruff’s review of our Music Festival published in the Nottingham Post.
Just when you thought that Nottingham's musical calendar was full, along comes Nottingham Cathedral and presents an exciting new Music Festival, mixing some of the top names in the world of classical music with an array of local talent. And the centenaries which inspired last week's concerts could hardly have been more relevant and worthy of commemoration: the ending of World War One and the first steps towards giving all women the vote.
The Festival presented six concerts, as well as a special Mass featuring music exclusively by female composers. Variety was a keynote: guitarist Hugh Millington (pictured left) and soprano Grace Bale both gave solo recitals whilst all-female vocal group Papagena (pictured above) had something for everyone with their Nuns and Roses programme.
They brought equal intelligence to Vaughan Williams' Songs of Travel, settings of poems by Robert Louis Stevenson. The song cycle seems to start decisively with the music evoking the purposeful tread of the wanderer striding out on the open road. But life isn't straightforward and both singer and accompanist were at the their finest in the song Youth and Love when life's choices seemed trickier to make. Which is preferable: love and the settled life it offers or solitude and the freedom to wander? In between the Butterworth and Vaughan Williams song cycles came many surprises: none more so than Anthony Payne's setting of Adlestrop, first shimmering and then exploding with a sense of wonder at the miraculous beauty of the natural world as seen through the window of a train.
Hugely successful was the Festival's central event, Jonathan Dove's opera Tobias and the Angel, which combines musical and dramatic power to celebrate faith and the human capacity to triumph over adversity. The story features Tobit, a man who loses his sight and sends his son Tobias on an eventful journey: not only giant fishes, murderous demons and romantic encounters - but also where he discovers that a stranger who befriends him is the angel Raphael. Ensuring that everything ended happily, conductor (and Festival Director) Alex Patterson had assembled some impressive soloists (notably Wesley Biggs as Tobit and James Beddoe as his son Tobias) as well as a spectacular array of singers and instrumentalists, including Streetwise Opera, Music for Everyone and the Cathedral's own choirs. It was a joyous, uplifting occasion, inspiring for all those performing and spectating - and whetting the appetite for future Festivals.